Beautiful Women

Beautiful women - Sarah

The first thing you'll notice about Sarah is the way she dresses. She pulls no punches, she is no shrinking violet. I've always delighted in wondering what combination of clothing Sarah would turn up in on any given day of the week. So when contemplating the nature of how this shoot would look we decided to capture a different outfit for each day.

Sarah's personality is as colourful and confident as her style of dress. Not in a brash and overly loud way, she is more of a bubbly, 'brighten up your day when she walks in the room' kind of girl. A quiet achiever who sticks to her own path.

Sarah's background is in psychology and she works in human services. One story she shared with me when I first got to know her, was of a painting one of her clients had done of a parachute, she being the parachute. It made her happier than anything else in her work to know that her time with this person had impacted their life in such a way as to feel lifted up, carried to an extent, and therefore changed for the better.

Sarah is a beautiful woman.

Beautiful Women {jenna}

'Beautiful' is a term that is frequently associated with women. From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be beautiful in the way that female icons like Grace Kelly were. Girls are pretty, women are beautiful. But what makes a woman beautiful? On one hand we all know that 'beauty is only skin deep' etc, but the reality is that from early on we learn that what is considered beautiful remains the decision of mass media and advertising. We are told that beauty lies in a pair of expensive shoes, in a bottle of perfume or behind an ever expanding range of makeup products, and we are told that this beauty all walks hand in hand with a fair amount of sexiness. Woman are photographed selling products to other women with sultry lips and partially exposed breasts. Magazine covers feature models with a 'come take me' pose, not men's magazines but ones designed specifically for the female market. The image of beauty we are sold is subtle yet ubiquitous and permeates throughout society.

It wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I started to grasp the difference between beautiful and sexy, subconsciously I felt that one could not exist without the other. I was no different to the masses of young women approaching adulthood today who post selfies on Facebook with lips pouted and bodies arched. Yet this pervasiveness does not belong entirely to teenage girls, a night out with friends is rarely over before someone has pouted at a smartphone to ensure their best side is seen on the impending Facebook feed.

Am I being critical of people wanting to look their best? Not at all, you'll even catch me wearing make-up occasionally, when I'm in the mood. What concerns me is the time and energy women devote to looking beautiful and equally lamenting over their flaws, never content with their imperfections. Imperfections which exist in us all but are never seen on overly touched up women in magazines where the image maker becomes painter in their goal to improve and improve until the subject ultimately presented before us is as much removed from reality as a cartoon character.

I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before, we all know it, the thing is very few of us really believe that what we are is sufficient, is truly beautiful. We may try with all determination and sense of self-worth to combat the barrage of false imagery that comes our way, look in the mirror and say 'You are beautiful', but ultimately, and sadly, the battle remains. Hence, I've decided to put together a little project of my own which intends, in some small way, to paint an alternate reality to the conventional image of a 'beautiful woman'. And so, here it is.

These photos show Jenna pregnant with her first child. When you meet Jenna her warm, ear to ear smile and sparkling eyes make you feel special. Jenna's smile is her gift she gives freely to everyone who crosses her path.

What I love about Jenna is the confidence she has in herself. Jenna doesn't feel the need to cake herself in make up or dye her hair, she is content to present herself to the world just as she is, knowing that who she is, is enough. 

This series was taken over a year ago now in a park near Jenna's home. She and her husband had been trying for a baby for sometime with many hiccups along the way before finally conceiving properly. I know that finding it difficult to have children can challenge a woman's feelings of completeness and cause them to question their identity, and for Jenna these feelings also raised their head. Ultimately it all turned out well, Jenna knew almost instantly that this pregnancy would stick. A year later and they now share their lives with a happy and healthy boy.

Jenna is a beautiful woman.

Belinda #1

I passed Belinda in the street one day and decided I had to photograph her. She has a unique look and style that is fitting with her beautiful and thoughtful personality. Her Scottish heritage has given her flaming red locks of hair which are totally natural. Inevitably it became a key component of our shoot together.

Belinda is a budding film director who has just completed a Masters in Film at Griffith University. It was interesting chatting to her about the local industry and where she would like to see herself going within her field. The difficulties and frustrations inherent in a world that is so competitive with such a small market. Despite her fondness for Brisbane, Belinda has since relocated to Melbourne and is next off to Singapore in the hope of greater opportunity.

Amongst our chatting arose the topic of directing women and the difficulties in getting a woman to be herself or play a character that isn't sexy in front of the camera. We both lamented how our culture has set up a dominant image in which women see themselves through, and how from young girls it has become increasingly natural to look and pose in a certain way, that even having a self awareness of its subtle sexuality can be difficult for the subject. I confess even though my goal is to avoid it, it is so easy to fall into photographing the ubiquitous sexy poses that dominate today's media and advertising.

Soon I will be blogging a series I've started, called 'Beautiful Women', which aims to counteract this stereotypical view of women. A view that is often self-perpetuating. The series will focus on providing photographs of women which are more about personality than looks. I'm slowly working through the concept and I'll just say it's not always easy for subject and photographer to avoid the 'sexy stare'. There is more on this concept to come but in the meantime this is a little introduction with beautiful Belinda. I look forward to sharing another shoot we did together next week which will be quite different again.

Indoor colour photos with flash were shot on Fuji 400H 35mm, indoor and outdoor colour photos without flash shot on Portra 800 120mm, indoor BW photos shot on Tmax 400 120mm and outdoor BW photos shot on Ilford Delta 3200 120mm rated at 1600. Cameras used were Nikon F5 and Bronica ETRSII Medium Format.